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Wild Card reset: D-backs return to playoff hunt after recent hot streak

Manager Torey Lovullo #17 of the Arizona Diamondbacks watches from the dugout during the fourth inning of the MLB game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Chase Field on September 01, 2019 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Just when you think they’re out, they pull you back in.

After being stuck in the mediocrity zone of .500 baseball the past two-and-a-half months, the Arizona Diamondbacks have won nine of their last 10 to put themselves back in the hunt for the National League’s final Wild Card spot.

The D-backs, to be fair, were still on the outside looking in prior to the hot streak but now firmly find themselves in the race.

Here’s where things stand after Wednesday’s action, an off-day for Arizona, stands.

THE RACE

The D-backs sit at 73-67, 3.5 games back of the 76-63 Chicago Cubs for the second Wild Card slot in the NL. The Washington Nationals (78-61) are 5.5 games ahead of the D-backs in the top Wild Card spot atop third-place Arizona.

There’s plenty of company behind the D-backs, though.

The Philadelphia Phillies (72-67), Milwaukee Brewers (71-68) and the New York Mets (71-68) are in this thing just as much as the D-backs, with all three teams sitting within 1.5 games behind Arizona in the standings.

THE SCHEDULE

In a situation like this with so many different teams presenting variables, the best thing for the D-backs to do would be to play some of these teams and beat them.

The problem is with 22 games remaining, the D-backs only have four remaining against teams in the race.

All of them are with the New York Mets, who they have a four-game series with beginning on Monday in New York.

That’s the bad news but the good news is the five remaining series of the season are against teams under .500.

They begin on Friday with three games against the Reds (66-75) in Cincinnati, followed by that Mets series and then returning home for three games against the Reds. That’s a six-game homestand the D-backs have to have highlighted because the back-end series is against the Miami Marlins, who have the National League’s worst record at 50-89.

From there, it’s three games in San Diego against the Padres (64-75) before the biggest test being three matchups with the St. Louis Cardinals (79-61) at home. The season ends with a three-game run at Chase Field against San Diego.

KEY PLAYERS

Mike Leake — The D-backs have won nine of the last 11 times either Zac Gallen or Robbie Ray have started. That’s not sustainable and other pitchers will need to step up.

Leake is the most experienced starter of the other three in the rotation. After a troublesome beginning to his time in Arizona, Leake has settled down nicely in his last two outings. He went 6.1 innings in a win over the San Francisco Giants on Aug. 27, allowing only five baserunners and two earned runs.

His troubles with letting guys on came back on Monday against San Diego, but he still got the win with nine baserunners allowed and four earned runs. While Leake loves throwing pitches guys can hit, if he can limit the damage in his remaining outings and give the D-backs offense a chance it will go a long way.

Ketel Marte — Well you’ve gotta say you didn’t expect the Paul Goldschmidt replacement to 1) be possible, 2) come from one player and 3) one player already on the roster.

Marte is hitting .328 with 30 home runs and 85 RBI. His .978 OPS would be the third-highest in franchise history and Goldschmidt only topped that mark once in his career.

Like Goldy, Marte is stepping up late in the season. In his last 23 games over 30 days, Marte has a .372 batting average and 1.238 OPS with six home runs, 19 RBI and 16 runs scored.

David Peralta is out for the year and Eduardo Escobar can only help so much. Marte is at the point of his stardom this season where he can carry an offense like Goldschmidt did for years. This is the time they need him to do so.

Archie Bradley — There is no complicated analysis behind saying the D-backs can’t afford to give away any games in this race and the bearded one will be largely responsible for which way that swings.

After a red-hot run to move into a permanent closer run, Bradley has been a rollercoaster since his first blown save post-role change on Aug. 14.

Bradley has converted all nine save opportunities, one of which was technically a win in 1.2 innings he did not allow a run. In the 11.1 innings, Bradley has sacrificed four earned runs but he’s allowing roughly 1.5 baserunners an inning with nine hits and six walks allowed.

In two of his last three outings, all saves, Bradley has had eight hitters reach on him in 2.2 innings. Simply put, he can’t go nuclear like he has in the past.

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